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These Things May Dramatically Raise Your Risk of Heart Disease

Five things that increase your chance of getting heart disease. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women, but a large percentage of cases are preventable, according to the Cleveland Clinic. "Heart disease is 90 percent treatable – everyone can prevent heart disease anywhere in the world, especially by eating foods that are low in salt and cholesterol, exercising regularly, and not smoking," said Leslie Cho, M.D., Section Head for Preventive Cardiology and Cardiac Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic. "Even if a person has a family history of heart disease, we can still prevent and treat heart disease thanks to incredible advances in medicine." Making healthy lifestyle choices could save your life and experts share with Eat This, Not That! Health the common bad habits that increase the chance of heart disease. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


High Cholesterol

Cholesterol test

Dr. Nicole Harkin, Preventive Cardiologist and Founder of Whole Heart Cardiology shares, "Elevated levels of LDL-cholesterol (the 'bad' cholesterol) is what is responsible for building up in our arteries and causing blockages or heart attacks. While for some it may in part be related to genetics, for many it's closely tied to what we eat! Depending on how high your cholesterol levels are and your overall risk for cardiovascular disease, often the first line of treatment is to lower cholesterol with dietary changes. Eating less foods high in saturated fats (found in butter, cheese, and red meat) and more fiber-rich foods (found in veggies, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds) can dramatically reduce your cholesterol."



body inflammation

"Inflammation is one of the key drivers of heart disease," says Dr. Nicole Harkin. "While cholesterol build up is necessary to form a plaque in the artery, it is the body's immune response to this cholesterol formation that is also a key determinant of heart attack and stroke. Chronic elevations of inflammation can be due to autoimmune conditions like lupus, but is also seen in those who are above ideal body weight and many other conditions. Studies have found a link between the food we eat and inflammation – with foods like green leafy veggies, yellow veggies, and nuts among the best anti-inflammatory foods – and processed meats, refined carbs, and sugary drinks to be very pro-inflammatory."


High Blood Pressure

high blood pressure

Dr. Harkin explains, "High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the force of blood through your arteries. It is very common, with almost half of all adults in the United States having high blood pressure. It increases the risk for heart disease and stroke by causing strain on the arteries. Most people are unaware they have it because it doesn't typically cause any symptoms. Getting adequate exercise, cutting back on alcohol and salt, and eating lots of unprocessed, whole foods can help lower blood pressure." 



no smoking sign

Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D., a professor of public health at New Mexico State University reminds us that, "Quitting smoking can add almost a decade to someone's life, within a few minutes of quitting the heart rate drops, within a few weeks breathing improves, and within a few months the risk of heart disease drops exponentially."


Stress And Lack Of Sleep

woman sleeping peacefully

Dr. Khubchandani says, "Sleep problems and stress have been found to impact our overall health and the function of our vital organs such as the brain and heart. High stress and inadequate sleep cause weight gain, high blood sugar and insulin resistance, heart rate changes, and blood pressure abnormalities. Over a period of time, these abnormalities result in coronary artery disease or heart attacks by promoting cholesterol accumulation in blood vessels, depleted blood supply to the heart and brain, and by making the heart function under great pressure." 

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather